During my time as CEO of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) based in Vancouver, B.C., I have had the privilege of being at the forefront of the pandemic response. I was there for the first two waves and was exposed to the problem-solving race that took place on a daily basis in order to better understand what we were dealing with and to design adapted solutions in order to respond to the threats and needs to the best we could. As we all know, the pandemic outbreak opened up a new reality for us to experience, which was certainly challenging in so many ways, but also innovation-rich and forward looking. This is also, and particularly, true for healthcare. The trends and new approaches that were slowly emerging before the pandemic accelerated at ‘warp speed’ with the pandemic and we all ended up propelled into the future.
Take for instance the development of science regarding covid-19 or the use of data analytics to project its behaviour and impact on our society. The way scientists rallied to develop new knowledge and the way governments and health systems used the new knowledge emerging on a daily basis was impressive. Vaccines got developed at unprecedented pace, the virtual world became the new normal and the use of science and data analysis for decision-making made a breakthrough. The latter dimension of using science and data to support decision-making pre-existed the pandemic in many ways. But the extent of its use for most, if not all decisions made was never explored before.
For instance, science and data modelling were used on a daily basis by Dr. Bonnie Henry and government to speak to the public and explain what was happening as well as to discuss the reasons why this or that decision was made. These were unchartered waters and science was used to make all kinds of decisions as well as to help the broader public get a factual understanding of what was happening. It was not perfect, of course, but it was a breakthrough regarding the extent with which science and data analytics pervaded management processes. PHSA was a systemic pillar to collect data, analyze it and produce modelled scenarios and potential outcome estimates that would support our understanding and decision-making processes. I was privileged to be at the forefront of that development and to witness history in the making regarding the use of data analytics, modelling and science in our systems. The use of data, indicators, metrics and other scientific facts spread through all decision-making mechanisms both internally and province-wide. They were used for supply chain management, laboratories, public health projections and analyses, clinical steering, workforce monitoring and so on.
The use of data science and analytics in order to support decision-making leapfrogged into the future. Never before had governments, health agencies, businesses and the broader public been exposed to scientific data to that extent and be able to access it in a timely fashion in order to make all kinds of decisions. As a result, there was a sense of shared understanding of the disease itself, the actions required to fight it, the underpinnings of decisions made and the progress made in managing the pandemic. In that sense, it would be safe to say that data analytics and science-based decision-making were key to the collective success of the B.C. response to the pandemic outbreak. Collecting evidence, analyzing data, modelling what we knew to make projections and scenarios as well as using that information to fuel decision-making were the backbone of steering towards and through the unknown. By doing so, data science crystalized in practice what we had known for years prior to the pandemic, which is its paramount importance to the future of healthcare and health systems . And this will become even more obvious as it connects and creates synergy with other emerging technologies and trends such as artificial intelligence (A.I.), virtual approaches and powerful scientific developments (e.g. genetics, precision medicine).
It was amazing, from my PHSA CEO viewpoint during the first waves of the pandemic, to see the future emerge out of the pandemic crisis pressures. Much like magna coming out of a volcano, these technologies, methods and trends flooded our personal and professional environments. They changed our landscape. But it will be a while before the magna cools down and firms up into a new normal that will shape the 21st century. In the meantime, all of these developments and the resulting context represent a unique opportunity to innovate, change things and build new foundations for our systems in order to ensure that their transformation is in tune with what the future calls for. I cannot even start to imagine what is still to come in terms of changes and progress but wouldn’t you agree that even though the pandemic was and still is a tragedy in so many ways, it also propelled our reality into the future and opened our minds and systems to change like never before? What do you think will shape our future in a way that was not easily possible before the pandemic? Write to me @ email@example.com to share your ideas. They are always interesting and great fuel for future articles.
In the meantime, may you be well, may you be happy.